Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, said that Ireland can be the safest country in the world for women and children. To achieve this, however, we have to change culture and attitudes that mean that domestic violence is too often not believed or taken seriously.
She was speaking at a special event hosted at Áras an Uachtaráin by President Michael D. Higgins as a Champion World Leader of the UN Women HeforShe campaign, World. HeforShe celebrates the positive and powerful role of men in promoting and supporting women’s rights and equality.
The head of the national organisation of 39 domestic violence services said that on average 12,500 women and children look for support for domestic violence services in one year. However, research also shows that 79% of women who have experienced intimate violence never report the most serious incident to anybody. Only about 8-12% of women experiencing violence contact a domestic violence service.
O’Halloran said that it was critical that men stand with women as allies against domestic violence, as an issue that is deeply rooted in inequality. She told the audience at the Áras that “we need to have the courage to face up to the enormity of domestic violence, to say that it is real and then act to bring visibility and voice like never before in this country.”
“We have to understand that the root of all violence is what happens in the home and home is not an island. It is clearly situated in society and clearly affected by culture,” O’Halloran said.
“We must address our culture and attitudes because they affect the ability and confidence of most women to report violence and seek help,” she continued. “It is our culture and attitudes that determine how we hear and respond to domestic violence. It is our culture and attitudes that allow domestic violence to continue as a largely undocumented, underreported and unprosecuted crime in Ireland,” she continued.
Special guests at the event included broadcaster Ryan Tubridy, an Ambassador for SAFE Ireland’s MAN UP Campaign, and global star Hozier, whose recently released single Cherry Wine is dedicated to raising consciousness about the complexity of abuse and was part of the campaign #FaceUpToDomesticViolence. Revenue from the single downloads are being donated to domestic violence services around the world, including SAFE Ireland.
President Higgins was appointed in 2015 as a Champion World Leader of the UN Women HeforShe campaign, which seeks to encourage men – as individuals, role-models and leaders – to support gender equality. President Higgins and his wife Sabina have both been life-long campaigners for women’s rights and gender equality. Sabina has supported SAFE Ireland’s MAN UP Campaign, which promotes the positive and powerful role that men can play in ending domestic violence, in challenging abuse and in supporting women and children.
Among the leading national organisations also attending the event were IBEC, the FAI, ICTU, the Union of Students of Ireland and the Defence Forces.
View photo gallery from this event:
Listen to The Irish Times Women’s Podcast which speaks about the Presidents event in Aras an Uachtarin with MAN UP and HeforShe here: